This article, as part of the special 50th issue of PLA Notes, highlights some of the learning that has been gained from discourse and practice relating to young people's participation and how it might be integrated into the broader development field. The article links background and theoretical ideas to practical learning and application in the field. Citing examples such as the Soweto uprising and the Palestinian Intifada, the authors look at young people's potential for political action. They argue that a rich collection of participatory techniques has accumulated and many successful examples of practice demonstrate how young people's competence, creativity and sense of fairness can be channelled in constructive ways if they are given roles in shaping their communities. The challenge facing this field appears to be institutionalizing young peoples' participation otherwise successful examples with remain as random acts of excellence. The authors suggest that the best projects with children and young people have shown a concern for human rights, ethics, clear communication, and capacity building that can provide models for good practice with all ages, calling for processes that are fun and engaging, transparent and action-oriented. The authors conclude that one of the ways forward for building capacity and integrating children's participation into development policies and processes is to include child and age sensitivity in mainstream training programmes. Some examples given, recognizing the need for special ethical considerations relating to the protection of children, relate to rights-based approaches, participatory processes, gender, poverty and social exclusion, project management process, and monitoring and evaluation.
International Institute for Environment and Development